Kill yourself with fructose — or preferably not
I'm too fat. Maybe this is why. The takeaway? Eat real food, not processed food, and avoid fructose as much as possible. The single best thing you can cut from a diet too high in calories and fructose is sugary drinks, including soft drinks (soda, pop) AND fruit juices (eat the fruit instead). To lose weight faster, cut out more carbohydrates, especially the processed ones (baked goods).
At the end of 1998, I read the book "Protein Power" and followed its recommendations for about two years, and had significant weight loss. A physical exam done for independent reasons afterward showed me to be in good health overall. In 2004, I had heart attack-like symptoms, and was diagnosed with sleep apnea. Many tests were done regarding my heart and arteries to rule out the heart attack, and I was told that my arteries were very clear, so clear that it would be at least 20 years before sufficient arterial blockage could develop to cause a heart attack. After thinking about that a bit, and the fact that my father and one of his brothers both had heart attacks (family medical history), I concluded that it was likely that my stint on the Protein Power diet had cleared my arteries. This in anecdotal in nature, not proof of anything. [N.B. The book I read may have been superseded by a newer edition, it seems to be out of print now, but others are listed on the author's web site.]
I discontinued following the diet because of other events in my life. It was not because I quit believing in its weight loss benefits (and I did slowly regain the weight I had lost, unfortunately). Nor have I found evidence that contradicts its foundation principles. However, about the time I decided I had gotten too fat, and needed to seriously diet again (2012) a friend posted a YouTube link to one of the videos below on facebook, and I was intruigued by the name, and watched the video. It seems that in the intervening years, other researchers have refined the knowledge that was presented in the Protein Power book, revalidating most of the basic concepts, but pinpointing a more specific culprit than "carbohydrates": fructose.
At UCTV Prime: The Skinny on Obesity, a pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Lustig, presents 7 "sound bite" video episodes focusing on one aspect of obesity each are available here (or on YouTube) in the main section. On the right, a 1.5 hour video of the lecture "Sugar: the Bitter Truth" from a year earlier fills in more details and is broader, but doesn't have the "eye candy" of the episodes... the "related articles" listed at the right, down a ways, are better for folks that like to read (and re-read), and can fill in the gaps that you don't absorb while watching the video, or will allow particular things to be looked up. Dr. Lustig makes reference to a book "Pure, White, and Deadly" in one of his videos, it can be found here in PDF format.
Key points from the videos above:
- "Sugar" is not the energy of life: "Glucose" (a particular sugar) is the energy of life.
- Common table sugar is a disaccharid, derived from sugar cane or sugar beets, and is 50% glucose and 50% fructose.
- Fructose can only be metabolized in the liver, which generally turns it directly into fat. It has all the same effects on the body as does ethanol (alcohol) except drunkenness (8 metabolic syndrome diseases: type 2 diabetes, hypertensions, Lipid problems, heart disease, fatty liver disease, polysystic ovarian syndrome, cancer, and dimentia). It is a chronic toxin, just like alcohol. Studies of the health effects of alcoholism all seem to apply to people that consume fructose.
- The metabolic syndrome diseases account for 75% of health care costs, and affect 60% of the population, and the dietary root cause is being exported, and becoming a problem in other countries as well. You should care, because it will bankrupt the health care system.
- Even people that control their weight by some means, can still suffer from the metabolic syndrome diseases caused by fructose.
- High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is a product manufactured from corn starch, and about 55% of the sugars in HFCS is fructose, the rest being glucose. So HFCS is chemically very similar to sucrose. Both are bad. In nature, fructose is bundled with fiber, which helps push it through the intestinal tract with much of it then not reaching the liver, but being expelled, or feeding the bacteria in the intestines. Refined fructose is quickly routed directly to the liver.
- High fructose corn syrup is added to most processed foods, even many baby foods; but many others have sucrose, which is about the same thing.
- One can calculate the energy consumption required for bodily processes and various exercise. Many diet/exercise programs are myths, because they assume that once you figure out how many calories you burn, that limiting your intake to that many calories of food, of any sort (a calorie is a calorie is a calorie), will suffice. In fact, if any of those food calories are fructose, then your liver turns them into fat, and the rest of your body is extra hungry, because it doesn't benefit from the calories in fructose. This hunger causes most diets to be discarded after a few pounds are lost, and the weight lost is quickly regained.
Key items from follow-on research:
- From Is sugar toxic to your body? and addictive? (text and video) we get some input from researchers other than Dr Lustig, but which confirms his basic premise about fructose.
- A link in the above text to New Study - does High Fructose Corn Syrup make you fatter than sugar? reveals that HFCS contains monosaccharid fructose, which makes it even sweeter, but also perhaps makes it more available to go directly to the liver. Rats fed HFCS fared worse than rats fed sucrose, even though the amount of calories is the same, and the amount of fructose is about the same. The surprise here is the statement that corn syrup contains no fructose: it has to be processed to convert glucose (the energy of life) to fructose (a chronic toxin).
- From Food Matters - You Are What You Eat we get some more viewpoints. These are broader viewpoints, not focused entirely on fructose. The recommendation is that 55% of our diet should be raw, unprocessed foods.
- From Lactose we discover that while many people are lactose intolerant because they quit producing the enzyme to digest it, for those that can tolerate it, it is a disaccharid of glucose and galactose. No fructose.
- From Karo Syrup - FAQ we learn that the original corn syrup contains no fructose. After the process of making HFCS was created, Karo did add it to their corn syrup for a while, but consumer demand caused them to remove it again. So their current Karo light corn syrup contains no HFCS (and no fructose at all).
- The Karo Syrup FAQ also states that if HFCS is added to any food, it must be disclosed on the ingredient list.
- I was curious if Honey contained fructose, and how much: according to Wikipedia - Honey - Nutrition it is about 38% fructose. Honey is produced by bees using digestion and evaporation, and source sugars contain fructose... and they have the enzymes to produce more, if I understood it correctly.
- Another Wikipedia article Maltose indicates that maltose, maltriose, maltodextrin, and food starch are all fructose free. High maltose corn syrup (HMCS) is a newer product developed after HFCS started getting a bad name, and it contains little to no fructose.
- Agave nectar varies from 56% to 92% fructose.
- Maple syrup is primarily sucrose... i.e. 50% fructose.
- Coconut sugar is 70-79% sucrose, and 3-9% each of glucose and fructose. So overall, about 38-49% fructose. It has a high mineral content, which may be better than more refined sugars, but it still has a high available fructose component.
- Invert sugar is a product derived from sucrose, by hydrolysis, often accelerated by using certain acids or enzymes. This separates the sucrose into monosaccharid glucose and monosaccharid fructose, making it more like HFCS. I found interesting that fondant filling in candies is made by putting the sucrose and the enzymes both inside the chocolate, and allowing the enzymes to work after the candy is made. This opens the door to using sucrose and enzymes in other foods as well, turning sucrose into invert sugar during the manufacturing process for those foods.
- After I did the research above, a blog post appeared on "The Skinny on Obesity" home page with very similar information in a nice chart... but they omitted plain corn syrup from their list.
My takeaway is that if you must consume sweets, you should make them yourself using non-fructose sugars. And you should eat them sparingly, even then, if you wish to control your weight.
If you wish to give feedback, feel free to comment on my facebook posting on this topic which contains much the same information, and eventually references this page, which is more organized.